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The Productive Operating Theatre

At a critical time when the NHS is facing the biggest challenge in its history - to find £15-20bn in efficiency savings, the need to improve quality and deliver care more efficiently has never been greater.  Now more than ever NHS teams need to work together to meet the challenges and opportunities that face us all.

The QIPP agenda requires organisations to achieve value for money and deliver the best possible quality care for patients. Theatre teams can play their part in delivering QIPP by implementing The Productive Operating Theatre programme. 

The Productive Operating Theatre helps theatre teams to work more effectively together to improve the quality of patient experience, the safety and outcomes of surgical services, the effective use of theatre time and staff experience.  This focus on quality and safety helps theatres run more productively and efficiently, which subsequently can lead to significant financial savings.

What is The Productive Operating Theatre?

  • A modular improvement programme created by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and co-produced with NHS organisations.
  • A systematic way to deliver significant improvements in safety, efficiency and patient care.
  • A proven method of involving and enabling front line theatre teams to transform the way they work.
  • A cultural change programme.

Who is it for?

The programme is for staff who work in theatres including surgeons, anaesthetists, theatre matrons, perioperative practitioners, managers and operating department practitioners. 

What benefits can you expect?

  • In the first 12 months of implementing The Productive Operating Theatre, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust saved £2 million through reducing waiting lists.
  • By implementing briefing and debriefing into operating theatres Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust was able to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in staff attitudes; specifically team work climate, safety climate and job satisfaction. 

Evaluation of The Productive Operating Theatre (published 2013) 

Results of the research study commissioned by the NHS Institute and led by Matrix Decisions.  Download a copy of the Evaluation of The Productive Operating Theatre programme FINAL.pdf Evaluation of The Productive Operating Theatre programme.pdf (562.40 KB)

Further information about The Productive Operating Theatre


Royal College of Surgeons presentation slides Royal College of Surgeons presentation slides (9.45 MB) 

Download a copy of the Improving quality and efficiency in the operating theatre (Improving quality and efficiency in the operating theatre 233.00 KB) flyer for financial teams.

Presenation slides for The Productive Operating Theatre programme launch September 2009 Presentation slides for The Productive Operating Theatre programme launch September 2009 (7.68 MB)

View the film 'The Productive Operating Theatre - the experience of Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust', which shows the benefits briefing and debriefing has brought to the team.

View the film 'Just a routine operation’

Access outputs from the Modernisation Agency theatre programme on:

• Pre-op assessment day surgery
• Pre-op assessment for in-patients
• Step guide to operating theatre performance

If you want to let us know about your own innovations in operating theatres, or have other queries, please email us

Support packages

We have carefully selected two delivery partners to support and guide you through the programme.  These are:

Shaping Health International.

All delivery partners involved in the support of The Productive Operating Theatre have been comprehensively trained and are supported by a rigorous quality assurance structure. 

Video introduction to The Productive Operating Theatre

NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement

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